The reason it is unwise to try to beat "the house" in any kind of commerical gambling game has been aired many times, and I have contributed my share of sermons on this subject.
However, there is no visible evidence that any of this advice has been effective. In fact, it may have been counterproductive. In describing how gambling games fleece the public, we may have whetted interest in them.
Clergymen who inveigh against gambling on moral grounds probably have some effect, but I doubt that we laymen deter many players with our economic arguments. Two days ago, the Washington Post Magazine carried a series of negative articles about Atlantic City, and I have the feeling that if a million people read our reports, fewer than a dozen will stay away as a result. In fact, it would surprise me if even one of those million readers writers to tell me, "I had planned to go, but those articles changed my mind."
MGM's Grand Hotel in Las Vegas has long been a money-maker for the company. Now the new MGM hotel in Reno has raised the company's gambling revenues to $1 million a week. Resorts International, which owns Atlantic City's casino, has been draining an average of more than a half million dollars every day out of the pockets of people who stand in line to gamble there.
If you rationalize your losses by saying you don't expect to win but just gamble for entertainment, the Associated Press has this statistic for you: the average gambling patron in Atlantic City loses at the rate of $18 an hour.
The longer he plays, the more he loses. The only answer to the fellow who wants to stay at the table until he gets even is, "You were even when you walked in."
When you and your wife decide to spend a day or two in Atlantic City, you pay travel, food and lodging expenses plus gambling losses of $18 an hour for one gambler or $36 an hour for two.
If somebody suggested that you pay $108 for two tickets to a three-hour show, I wonder if you would find it amusing to stand in line for hour to shell out that much. Yet in Atlantic City, $18 an hour per person comes under the heading of "entertainment." The implication is that it is entertaining to blow a week's pay - or more - in a couple of hours.
Why? Heaven only knows. Staff writer Bradley Graham wrote a report from Reno for Saturday's paper in which he quoted the explanations people gave him. Those quoted may believe what they told Graham, but I don't.
I think that deep inside each of them was the notion, "I'm different. I know the statistics indicate that those who smoke run a higher risk of cancer and heart disease, but I'm a pretty lucky guy, so I'll keep on smoking. I know the odds are against me in a casino because the house always wins, but I've got a hunch I ought to go to Atlantic City and take along an empty suitcase so that I'll have something in which to carry home my winnings."
A couple of years ago, stock in Resorts International was selling for $1 a share. By July 11, 1976, Resorts A and B stock were both at 3 1/4. On July 11, 1977, the A stock was 20, the B had soared to 23. Today, you can look at the American Stock Exchange table and see that on July 11, 1978, the stock is not far from 100. Then ask yourself: "If the public really has a chance to win in a gambling joint, how does it happen that the companies that own the casinos get rich and I always seem to go home loser?"
If you do this, you will have to conclude that going to Atlantic City to win a bundle is futile. And, having reached this conclusion, you will goanyhow, won't you? Or are you one in a million?